My family and another family decided to head down to Pismo Beach OHV park for a weekend of relaxation and some off-road fun. It was a beautiful weekend in January. No rain, no wind, just sunshine. The beach was not very crowded. The kids wanted to go look for shells on the beach so all of the girls took off. My buddy Scott and I decided to go out for one more ride in the dunes before we started cooking dinner. We were having a blast jumping the razor backs, carving dunes and racing up the hill climbs. We were taking turns video taping and taking pictures of some of our jumps. We found ourselves fairly far back in the dunes as the fog began to roll in. We were getting a little tired and wanted to jump a few more dunes before we called it a day. All was going well until I crashed my motorcycle on a razor back jump that Saturday afternoon. I recall going up the face of the sand dune and decided to let off of the throttle a little bit. I launched over the lip of the dune and suddenly I realized my feet were coming off the pegs. I was approaching the landing in an endo situation where my front wheel was going to land first. "This is not good!" I thought to myself. I envisioned myself crashing into the handle bars face first. I decided to bail off the bike at the last second and I hit the ground. My chest and hands landed first, my feet continued over my back and I felt a cracking sound as my feet landed next to my head.I was able to roll over on my back where I got my head pointed uphill and my legs down hill. The pain was excruciating! I have never felt so much pain in my life. I reached down to feel what I thought was my stomach and it had a Jell-o like felling. I thought to myself that I had just ruptured my internals and I that I was bleeding internally. I thought I was a gonner. After I removed my gloves to feel again, I was not touching my stomach, but I was feeling the top of the thighs. I began feeling other parts of my body and I realized I could not feel anything below my waist. I took off my new Fox helmet so I could look down toward my legs and tried to move them. Nothing! I tried to wiggle my toes in my boots. Nothing!
I leaned my head back against the sand, I closed my eyes and realized that I was paralyzed. I had just changed my life forever. I had just changed my family's lives for ever.
The pain was unbearable. My teeth were clenched tight, my back was throbbing, I was in total agony. Then I heard Scott come back over the dune to check on me. He asked if I was OK. I asked him to call 911 as I was hurt really bad. Off in the distance I could hear the sirens of the Park Rangers, I could hear a few other people coming near to offer some support. The pain was so bad I began to let out some screams. I tried to hold them back, but it was too much to bear. Then heard more sirens in the distance. I heard the Park Ranger's H1 hummer pull up to the top of the dune above me. The rangers came down with their backboard and rescue gear. One stabilized my neck and put on a c-collar. The other began asking me questions. Then he began cutting off my new Fox Racing pants and shirt. Oh, I finally found a pair of motorcycle pants that fit me perfectly. Argggggh! OK, not something to be worried about considering the situation I was in. But still, did you have to cut my pants and shirt off????
The rangers stabilized me and strapped me to the backboard. They continued to take my vital signs every few minutes. They asked me the same questions over and over to make sure I was mentally OK. The rangers were awesome and they helped calm me down a little. One ranger asked if I had ever been in a helicopter. No. He said now was my chance as we heard the helicopter approaching. Then I heard the words over the radio..."It is too foggy for us to land, you will have to wait for the off-road ambulance to take him out." The ambulance was already on its way. The paramedics arrived on scene and took over. They dragged me up the sand dune and loaded me up in their ambulance. What a bumpy ride all the way our of the dunes!
On the way to Arroyo Grande hospital the paramedics installed an IV in my arm and gave me some morphine for the pain. I must say it did not help at all. The pain was still unimaginable. My whole body began shaking. When I arrived at AG hospital, they gave me a CT scan. I remember the tech asking me to stay still. Yeah, OK. How am I supposed to do that? The morphine was not helping to lower my pain level. After the CT scan I was transferred to a spinal center in San Luis Obispo. When I arrived there, one of the nurses injected me with some dilauded. I remember him saying that I should put on some Pink Floyd and get ready to hallucinate. Within 15 minutes, I felt my entire body start to feel numb. The pain was instantly reduced from 10 to about 5. What a relief!
View from Eric's wife: Hi, I am Tracy, Eric's wife. I thought I would share with you my experience on the day of the accident. As Eric stated, it was a beautiful day, one of the nicest we ever experienced at Pismo. We brought our 4 and 6 year old daughters and were camping with a family friend who also brought their similar aged daughters. During the morning we had some fun motorcycle rides through the dunes. Back at camp the girls had fun riding their ATVs. Later in the afternoon, Eric and his friend went out for another ride and Jenn and I took the girls for a long walk up the beach looking for shells.
The walk started out with the still beautiful weather, but on the way back an eerie heavy fog suddenly came in an overtook us. It was like the scene from the first "Pirates" movie when the fog came in right before the pirates showed up. We could only see a few feet in front of us but eventually we found our way back to camp. I was surprised the guys were not back because this was longer than Eric was normally out for. Soon we heard the sirens of the ranger then followed by the ambulance. This is not unusual at Pismo. But I had a bad feeling since Eric was not back. So I jumped in Eric's Landcruiser and took off slowly after the sound of the sirens. Way back in the park, the ambulance passed me going back out. I wondered who was in there. I kept driving around carefully in the fog and about 10 minutes later I got a call from my friend and she said Scott was back. At first I was relieved. Then she handed the phone to him and he said Eric was hurt really badly and was taken out in the ambulance. Eric could not feel his legs. I think I might have stopped breathing for a moment as I tried to let the news sink in.
When I got back to camp, Jenn packed Scott and I sandwiches and snacks and then Scott drove me to the hospital emergency room. When we got there, the doctor pulled me aside and said Eric was hurt really badly and he showed me an xray of his broken spine. I think that is when I began crying. Next we got to see Eric and he was obviously in a lot of pain. An hour later Eric was loaded into a ambulance and I accompanied him to a different hospital with a spinal clinic. On the way out, the doctor mentioned to me that we should look into stem cell trials....
In the ICU of the new hospital, Eric was put on a new medication which made him a lot more comfortable. While the doctors did their initial checks, I had to wait in the waiting room with Scott. It had now been about 2 hours since the accident, though it seemed like an eternity. I realized it was time to make some phone calls. It seem appropriate to start with Eric's parents. It was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make. I got up the courage to call, then was a wreck afterwards. That started the phone tree. They called his sister, who then called my parents, all within minutes of that call and I started gettings calls.